Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph
Director: Rich Moore (2013)
‘I’M GONNA REVIEW IT!’
Even by todays invasive advertising standards Wreck-It Ralph has been massively massively hyped, at one point I found in order to watch the trailer on youtube (with the girl who infrequently allows me to respectfully touch her boobs) I had to wait five seconds then press skip on a different trailer for the same film. I’ve got to say skipping one version of a trailer to watch a different version feels like one step too many towards a trailer singularity. Moving on, Massive hype can be a dangerous sign; sad, unscrupulous or pitiable filmmakers (real ones, not wannabe ones like me) who don’t think their film is very good know critics (real ones not uneducated ones like me) aren’t going to be fooled by big explosions, naked women (funnily enough airbrushed and not real ones either) lots of gun fire or Jason Statham head-butting stuff and will probably write a savage review. Their solution is twofold; one: pay the hack critics in the media with money or exclusive interviews (see any film article in the Daily Mirror ever). Two: hype everything as much as advertising laws will allow in order to gain the biggest possible audience before critics who don’t want/need blood money and have integrity get their opinions out into the infosphere.
The hype then had me rather wary of going to see Wreck-It Ralph. I did some soul searching but realised at the end of the day the trailer featured a glimpse of Sonic the Hedgehog when his games were still playable and didn’t rely on crap gimmicks like being a freakin werewolf. That glimpse was my ‘you had me at hello’ moment and honestly from that point on they could have projected an advertisement for Wreck-It Ralph on the moon and I’d still go and see it, so With a sense of inevitability I ventured to see the damn thing at The Showroom Cinema.
Do I regret doing so?
Short answer no.
Long answer after a brief plot summary.
Yeah I figured everyone would stop reading after the short answer, looks like it’s just you and me now film review, wait film, review where you going?
Just me then,
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
Plot summary time.
Somewhere in a videogame arcade, the type that in real life hasn’t been profitable for years……………………
Wreck-it Ralph (voiced nicely by John C Riley) is the bad guy in a made-up arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. A large lumbering tower of a pixelated man, Ralph’s role is to ‘wreck’ a building so that a human player can guide the games hero Felix Jr (Jack McBrayer, whom no doubt has a big future ahead of him if he can stay out of guff like Movie 43) to fix the building with his magic hammer that fixes anything. The end victory cut scene in the game features Ralph being thrown off the building by its grateful inhabitants, who subsequently award Felix a medal as the player stops playing and the game resets to await the next challenger. Once the videogame arcade closes the characters in the games are free to wander into other games or just generally live lives like real people until the next day, basically it’s Toy Story with pixels and Donkey Kong instead of a cowboy.
While other games have come and gone, Fix-It Felix Jr has been going for thirty years, which by any token is a remarkable achievement, real life Mario has only managed that by strictly releasing the basic same game over and over and over and over again. Ralph however is less than fulfilled by his lot in life, you see whereas good guys win the plaudits of bit part characters and medals (which is the gaming equivalent of getting ‘insert word reducing females to their genital here’) villains that are only performing their programmed duties are avoided and viewed with reproach. They get treated harshly and despite their necessity to make good characters good they are excluded from the mainstream and have to reside in specific villain only zones, basically if arcade games were the South African Apartheid system, villains would be the black people if you see what I’m getting at.
To help him through Ralph goes to a support group for villains and rubs shoulders with some of the finest bad guys videogames of the last thirty years have had to offer……………………………………….. and Bowser. Despite receiving encouraging words from a zombie (Cyril from House of the Dead) Ralph still can’t scratch the itch and returns home to discover he’s not been invited to the 30 year celebration party the rest of the Fix-It Felix characters are throwing. This understandably upsets Ralph and some high-jinks later he vows to impress upon the other game characters his potential as a hero by setting out to win a gold medal which is the clichéd equivalent of someone setting out to prove they’re an action hero by rescuing their daughter from terrorists.
And that’s basically the plot,
huh, that seems short,
Screw the Tories
Screw the Tories
………………yeah that’s it, plot summary done…………
No there’s a bit more, along the way Ralph finds himself enlisted in a first-person shooter sendup named Hero’s Duty, a game requiring the shooting of many a giant mutating bug under the auspices of psychotic Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch who is as fun to hear as she is to watch). Later he finds himself in a racing game sendup named Sugar Rush where he encounters King Candy (Voiced by Alan Tudyk who played Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball) and Vanellope von Schweetz (voice by Sarah Silverman who’s actually quite funny but should never have been given her own television show). Vanellope is a horrifically named glitch in the game that gets discriminated against simply for being a glitch. Basically if Sugar Rush were the London Metropolitan police glitches would be the people they traffic stop a lot and don’t hire if you see what I’m once again getting at.
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that Ralph runs involving themes of friendship, self-discovery and all that other mushy crap you get with Disney films.
Plot summary finishes for real.
Unlike a Tory press conference I actually quite enjoyed watching Wreck-It Ralph, it’s one of the stronger and more pleasurable Disney-Pixar CGI experiences I’ve had. To explain why I’m going to convolutedly discuss some previous experiences I’ve had with Disney-Pixar CGI (technically it was just Pixar, who at the time were kicking Disney’s arse at the negotiating table so hard Disney eventually bought them) I’ll begin with what can be considered a dramatic yet safe phrase.
Cars sucked. I of course mean the film, but just for the record my experience with real ones hasn’t exactly been a story of roses and horse rides through enchanted meadows. I’m often surprised by how many people try and defend Cars with phrases like ‘I liked it a bit’ or ‘it was ok’. ‘Ok’ in terms of Disney-Pixar films isn’t anywhere near good enough, especially when you think about just how great some of their releases (Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Up) have been. Toy Story which preceded Cars by some way was especially amazing. Question, want to know the difference between Toy Story and Cars?
Yes I know it’s just me reading this but I can pretend people are still reading and ask a rhetorical question can’t I?
Yes Sam, yes you can, and also you’re amazing and wonderful and utterly sexy and your penis’s extraordinary girth is beyond doubt………..
Ok maybe not adult content but content aimed at adults, that was the difference. In Toy Story there were sexual undertones between Woody and Bo-peep, adult jokes about dead presidents and themes that would hopefully go above a child’s head. There was even a scene involving the nightmarish mutilated toys of the neighbour Cid that’s designed specifically with creeping out adults in mind, a scene that references old horror films like Night of the Living Dead, Child’s Play and The Hand. Remember the Disney mantra ‘For Children of All Ages’, that was where Cars failed, by the time I got round to viewing it I was 18 and having a torrid time briefly living very stoned, drunk and poor in Leeds. I needed adult jokes, adult story elements or adult orientated risqué images, Cars had none of them so Cars sucked, I found watching it boring and can barely remember it, even the girl whose boobs I’m occasionally allowed to touch just described it as forgettable.
Wreck-It Ralph is a great example of the formula working. Sure there’s potty mouth and slapstick prat falls but any film that features a scene with a character performing a Jesus level self-sacrifice (though not because their father’s an unforgiving prick) while sombrely repeating a mantra they were told earlier but only now in the final hour understand, is a film pitching for more than just a child audience. Another sign the makers knew what they were doing is the fact the vast majority of the videogame characters are from my time and beyond, they even referenced Tapper and there’s a wonderful side story about the game Q’Bert (which I’m pretty sure came and went before my parents decided to procreate) and what happens to characters once their games are unplugged.
Away from the story elements, Wreck-It Ralph is also very well made, there’s a lot of action but unlike some CGI films and the odd trilogy out there it’s a deliberately slow and followable execution. Seems the big studios are finally realising that cluttering a screen with as much crap as possible all going on at once is detaching and harder to follow, if we can now just get them to admit 3D is a gimmick and not the future we may actually be able to get back to the standard of CGI films we were at pre Avatar and Star Wars prequels-caust.
There’s also a pretty good soundtrack, excluding an unnecessarily jarring effort by Rihanna (more on that later) it features a couple of decent contributions by the likes of Owl City and Skrillex and there’s some awesome specially composed stuff by Henry Jackman (who has previous on such greats as Kick-Ass) that nicely captures the old 8 bit sounds of my youth.
Yeah a couple.
For starters, while the cameos by real life game characters are fun bordering on awesome, for a film that marketed itself as being so connected to retro games a hell of a lot of time is spent without a recognisable character in sight. I’m not complaining about what was shown, the cameos were fine and the made up game worlds are close enough to real things to still feel ‘gamey’ (except Sugar Rush which is sweety) it’s just that it was impossible to watch the trailer or five seconds of the other trailer and not feel a little short changed, perhaps even misled.
Next that Rihanna track; it’s named ‘Shut Up and Drive’ (the rest of the title being ‘back to Chris Brown so we can enjoy all the money he’s accumulated on the back of beating the crap out of me that one time’) and it just doesn’t work. I’m not saying it’s a bad song (it’s terrible) and there is a car on screen when it’s playing so I guess thematically it works, it just atmospherically speaking bears absolutely no relation to what’s occurring on screen. The scene involves stunts and two characters having a fun time bonding, the song features lyrics that are basically a list of requirements that need meeting in order to have sex with Rihanna and her ‘gangster lean’. It’s a fairly slow and timid beat and just kills the moment, essentially if this scene were childhood innocence than this song would be Jim……………. No BAD SAM we don’t do those references anymore!
Having said that, generally speaking if my criticisms of a film are so refined as to focus on the placing of a single track in a single scene of a 108 minute film it can be taken that the film’s a good one. Wreck-It Ralph’s a pretty good one, fair play to it.
Note to end on; a couple of years ago a male friend I thought of as wise gave me reason to reconsider his mental faculties by having a baby. Not just any baby but a female baby. I recently saw my friend (by accident of course, no friend consciously seeks my company these days) and I asked him how he found having a now slightly grown bundle of stupidity joy. His reply was that it was one of the greatest and hardest experiences of his life, I assumed he felt this because of the amount of time his sleep deprived life was now devoted to body functions, the sound of crying and poverty, but no his reasons were much more noble.
‘I want a happy daughter’ my friend proclaimed, ‘one who can enjoy her life without feeling held back or less important because she happens to have a vagina instead of a penis’. It turns out my friend isn’t just a feminist (or male apologist) he’s actually as smart as I believed him to be before he procreated, you see the problem he was having was picking films for his daughter that actually seemed to approve of their female characters for any other reason than a male finds them attractive.
I’ll use some old Disney films as an example……….
Snow White, her whole point to exist is to get kissed by a guy, Little Mermaid, Ariel claims to be desperate to get on land but when she does her entire life becomes about marrying her prince charming, also it’s her very male father King Triton who saves her in the end (King T also only stops being angry at Ariel once she finds a man). The Lion King, not sure the female characters are worth mentioning (except maybe Whoopie Goldbreg’s hyena). Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying Disney was/is an overtly sexist (and racist) company………
…………..actually yes that’s exactly what I’m saying, but they’re not the only offender, it wasn’t Walt so much as the fact all the studios reflect the corridors of power of their time and the corridors have always been almost exclusively walked by rich middle aged and older white men.
The problem my friend has is that it’s incredibly hard to show your daughter a ‘good’ animated film and not worry she’s psychologically learning she comes second to males.
I sent my friend a text the day after I saw Wreck-it Ralph to tell him Wreck-it Ralph’s fine. The female characters are strong, more than capable of standing on their own two feet and don’t have aspirations subservient to those of the male characters, there are even some nice deliberate touches like the arcade players being almost exclusively young females who actually look like young females (not overly skinny with flawless complexions and massive breasts). That sort of makes sense really because for all the virgin fanboys who play Warcraft or Eve online and post photo shopped images of female actors with their private parts out (or just generally abuse the whole idea of women in the most base of terms) on Reddit, videogames have a richer tradition of empowered female characters, even if it does ret-con their backstory to something a bit more second class citizen from time to time (Lara Croft, Samus, Coco Bandicoots).
[DISCLAIMER: there are some nice people on Reddit too and some of them aren’t even virgins apparently}
So that’s it really, like Wreck-it Ralph, it’s no Up but it’s close enough to be enjoyable, like the wider implications of where the genre may be heading and I like boobs women, except the ones who get really loud when they’re drunk, and the ones who always attention seek, and birds who turn out to be maneaters … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … actually the smart ones are a bit intimidating too.
Written By Sam ‘Joked I was going to vote Tory to my gran once, she made me stand outside her house for half an hour to let me think about what I’d said’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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